ST Kilda has rallied to record a one-point AFL victory over Gold Coast, holding off the Suns in an unconvincing performance at Marvel Stadium.
The nailbiter was memorable for the mediocrity of both play and the pitch, with a late Jack Lonie behind proving the difference between the two sides.
St Kilda prevailed 13.7 (85) to 13.6 (84) in the battle of two teams tipped to struggle in 2019.
With just two minutes remaining after a see-sawing afternoon, Suns forward Peter George, in his 50th game, won a free kick in sight of goal with his team down by a solitary point.
Staggeringly, he chose to centre the ball rather than shoot for goal, ensuring the Saints would claim a tightest of victories.
St Kilda had more of the ball, more tackles and more inside-50s but was so error-plagued that they couldn’t find clean routes to goal.
Two of the last year’s worst sides combined with round one rustiness to almost comical effect.
Out-on-the-full efforts were almost as prevalent as goals in the first half, while the first 13 minutes of the third term produced just one point as teams struggled to gel.
Gold Coast was fielding seven new faces, St Kilda three, with both sides handing two players their AFL debuts.
The pick of the bunch was St Kilda’s Matt Parker, who kicked two first-half goals in a livewire display that drew comparisons to an early-career Dustin Martin.
The 22-year-old West Australian also put his first kick out of bounds and missed another second-quarter snap St Kilda legend and ABC commentator Nathan Burke described as the “biggest miss I’ve ever seen on this ground”.
Players weren’t helped by an atrocious Marvel Stadium surface at its worst just in front of the team benches.
The AFL-owned venue’s turf was so poor, the emergency umpire spent time walking on the ground to replace sandy divots.
An early 17-point lead to Gold Coast was as wide as the margin got all afternoon.
Two final quarter majors to Suns captain David Swallow looked to have tipped the contest in favour of his side before Dean Kent, in his first game for St Kilda, returned the Saints to the front.
Josh Bruce, who kicked three goals on his return to senior football after 11 months out of the game, took a terrific mark in defence to preserve St Kilda’s advantage.
Bruce, Jack Billings, Seb Ross and Jarrod Witts were among St Kilda’s best.
For Gold Coast, Brayden Fiorini had a game-high 30 possessions, Touk Miller had eight tackles and Alex Sexton kicked four goals.
© AAP 2019
ST KILDA 4.1 9.4 12.4 13.7 (85)
GOLD COAST 5.2 7.3 10.4 13.6 (84)
Goals: St Kilda: J Bruce 3 M Parker 2 T Membrey 2 B Long D Kent J Gresham J Lonie J Sinclair J Steele. Gold Coast: A Sexton 4 D Swallow 3 P Wright 2 A Miles B Ainsworth C Burgess W Powell.
Umpires: Jeff Dalgleish, Sam Hay, Hayden Gavine.
Venue: Etihad Stadium.